WW PHILLY '08: Who's That Girl? The New Kraven

When a cover to Amazing Spider-Man showed up in August’s solicitations with a mysterious female character wearing an animal-inspired costume and hunting Spidey, it didn't take many guesses to figure out who she might be.

And at Friday's Brand New Day panel at Wizard World Philly, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort confirmed what fans suspected: This is a brand new, female Kraven.

Making her debut in a three-issue story arc beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #565, the character will have some relationship to the original Kraven, although creators are keeping mum about what that link is.

Newsarama talked to both writer Marc Guggenheim and artist Phil Jimenez about the character, and we found out the creation of the new Kraven was very much a collaboration between the two.

Newsarama: First off, guys, we now know she's the new Kraven, but can we know what her name is?

Marc Guggenheim: Interestingly enough, at no point during this entire arc is she referred to by name.

NRAMA: So we don't know her name?

MG: We don't know her name; we don't come in knowing anything about her. She really is a brand new character and a total cipher, which I think is kind of cool. It didn't start out intentionally to not refer to her by name. But as I was writing the arc, it felt right to keep that air of mystery alive. In comics, I love the villains who have a bit of a slow roll-out, in the sense that you don't quite know who that guy is who's lurking in the shadows. So we'll get to tease, but we'll do it in the context of an arc that really takes Spider-Man to the limit.

NRAMA: But is she related to Kraven somehow?

MG: Well, this being comics and with solicits going out in advance, we'll tell you that she is related somehow to Kraven and his legacy. But the nature of that relationship, it doesn't have to be a relationship with a capital "R," but what that relationship is is one of the mysteries of the first arc.

NRAMA: Do we find out in this storyline a little about her background?

Phil Jimenez: We do find out things about her. She does have ties to the original Kraven. There's actually a really good bit of a surprise in the third part, which I'm kind of excited about. So you get to know some things about her, but not everything.

NRAMA: But do we get an inkling of what her relationship is to Kraven in this three-issue story?

MG: Yes, you do.

NRAMA: We totally find out how she's related to him?

MG: Um... I wouldn't use the word "totally." I would stick with "inkling." [laughs] We get an inkling of what the relationship is.

NRAMA: A lot of people are guessing that she's his daughter.

PJ: You can assume anything you want.

NRAMA: OK, so how did this character come about?

MG: Well, it kind of happened in three stages. First, I wanted to do a female Kraven. I felt like the name was lying around -- not that it wasn't being used, but it wasn't being used to maximum effect -- and I really liked the idea of a female character. Spidey doesn't have a lot of female antagonists. He's got female characters who he'll interact with, and it may even be a somewhat antagonistic relationship, but it's hard to point to a great Spidey villain who's a woman. Madam Web is a very interesting character, but in terms of a woman -- I want to see a woman who can kick his ass, basically.

So I thought Kraven was a great concept. It may have not always been perfectly executed, but I thought he was a really original concept for a villain. So I had that, and I had this desire to do a female character. And I was sort of noodling around with this stuff, even drafting out the arc, when I got into a conversation with Phil. Phil had been working up some Kraven-related ideas with Steve Wacker. And we all collectively realized that a lot of the stuff I was doing and a lot of the stuff he was doing had huge areas of overlap.

NRAMA: So Phil, at the same time Marc was working on his idea, you pitched this character to Steve Wacker?

PJ: I did. I did it quite tentatively. I was a little nervous because I'm one of many artists working on this project and I didn't want it to feel like I was stepping on any creative toes. But I had this idea and I pitched it to Steve, and actually everyone in the Spider-Man group, and they seemed to go for it. So I was very excited. I have my own little contribution to Spider-Man mythology.

But it turned out that they were already doing a new Kraven, so Marc had to kind of overhaul his story to include this character.

NRAMA: Now Phil, were you always a fan of Kraven, or did you think there needed to be more tough women too?

PJ: It's true I've always liked Kraven, but more importantly, when I joined the Spider-Man group, I was never a big Spider-Man person, so I ended up doing a lot of research, as you know from our conversation last year. Whenever I hop onto a character, I do as much research as possible. And a trend that I noticed, in a book that took place in New York City, there were very few female characters and very few ethnic characters. I tend to gravitate toward female characters anyway. And so, part of the connecting Brand New Day with the old stuff was re-thinking some older villains. Kraven is a great name and a great look. There's a legacy from Spider-Man's first days in the '60s. So I thought, why not make Kraven a new Kraven, and why not a woman? And then I thought it would be cool to have it be a young girl.

NRAMA: Ah, so she's a teenager?

PJ: She is. And believe it or not, she's not inspired by Buffy. [laughs] But I did think there was something very cool about a teenager who had all that power and could physically kick Spider-Man's ass. And also who could carry a crossbow and all that sort of stuff. To me, there was just something very cool about that. I have shielded myself from the internet, but I hear there's a good response to the character image, so I look forward to everyone seeing the final version. On that cover, it's the first draft of the color. There will be a corrected version. The costume will be colored differently, and her hair will be modeled differently. I know that means nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things, but it's not quite the finished version.

But it was my intention, as it is with any project that I go onto, to use pre-existing history and then infuse it with a new point of view. In Spider-Man's case, if it's not a love interest, there are just no women, particularly villains, in his universe. He has over 900 characters in his universe, and very few of them are females, which I thought was interesting.

So you have this existing name, and you have a character legacy, and I thought, why not use the name and get some mileage out of that as well? And then figure out a way to connect the two. So when I created the character, I essentially created a who's who and a background and a timeline, to link it to the larger Kraven mythology, including her name and lineage and all that sort of stuff.

NRAMA: So it sounds like Steve Wacker brought you two together, since you were kind of working up the same sort of ideas?

MG: There were a lot of long discussions with the three of us -- me, Steve and Phil -- and then we brought in the rest of the brain trust. And we ended up with this great three-dimensional character along the way. In fact, she's so three-dimensional that the first arc barely scratches the surface of her. When I say she's three-dimensional, I don't want to give people the impression that you're going to get everything in this three-issue arc. You're not. And that's by design.

The goal here is to do a kick-ass three-issue arc that I actually think has a lot of cool stuff going on with it. It's an arc I'm very proud of. It takes some of the stuff we've developed for her, but we don't spend all of our bank account, so to speak, with those three issues. We're laying track for stories that we'll be telling for the next couple of years.

NRAMA: So she's around for awhile?

PJ: I don't think we will have seen the last of her. Of course, it will depend on whether or not fans like her, which I hope they do, and they want to see more of her. I myself am very tentative about everything I do in the Spider-Man universe. It's a very devoted group of fans, and I don't ever want to piss them off in any way. So I hope they like this character.

NRAMA: And this arc also has Daredevil appearing?

MG: Yep. This arc is all about destroying Spider-Man, and Daredevil actually plays a key role in all of it. But a very unconventional role. There are a bunch of things I'm proud of in this arc, and one of them is the fact that, after hundreds of Spider-Man and Daredevil issues, I've come up with a way to do a Spider-Man-Daredevil team-up that no one's ever done before.

NRAMA: Whoa! Is that possible?

MG: It is! And it's very organic. It makes total sense in the context of the story, and it's one of the things I'm quite proud of.

NRAMA: But from the looks of that cover, she does a pretty good job against Spider-Man and Daredevil. She must be pretty tough.

MG: She is!

NRAMA: What's Spider-Man's reaction to a teenage girl essentially kicking his butt?

MG: Well, I tell you, Spider-Man's reaction comes out of the unique circumstances of her attack. She figures out where Spider-Man lives. So she literally hits him where he lives. His whole reaction really is one of shock and one of, "what the hell do I do? I have to survive the night! I have to get through this alive!" I'm a big believer that that's the best way to introduce an antagonist. Even if you're starting out in that dark, mysterious way, you can keep a lot hidden at the outset so long as your antagonist comes out swinging. I think one of the reasons Venom is probably one of the recent additions to Spider-Man's rogue gallery who has staying power is you remember him going after Mary Jane. You remember Bane in the Batman arc for breaking Batman's back. You remember Doomsday for killing Superman. The more the villain takes the hero to the limit, the more memorable they are. And Spidey spends these three issues just trying to limit the amount of damage this little girl can do.

NRAMA: Phil, was the main inspiration for the costume the fact that she's taking on the mantle of Kraven?

PJ: Yeah. Because the character is somehow tied to Kraven, I wanted to do a lion themed costume. But actually, my inspiration was not Kraven's costume but Julie Taymor's The Lion King as well as some high-end fashion designers. Believe it or not, I was using 2007-2008 runway designs and some of The Lion King designs as inspiration for that costume.

NRAMA: Did you want it to be a more updated look than the old Kraven look?

PJ: Well, that's a great question. Designing for Marvel, I find, is a great challenge. Even though there is some flamboyance to the costumes on characters like Spider-Man and Captain America, because of the films, there is still a sort of real world look to a lot of the newer characters. This character is young. She's an early teenager. So I didn't want to put her in a standard superhero uniform. I wanted to put her in a costume, obviously -- I didn't want to put her in street clothes -- but at the same time, I wanted to search elsewhere for inspiration, thinking, in that kind of universe, what would a 14-year-old be looking at? What would a young girl be seeing? We have to remember that in their world, there are people who run around in blue and red leotards. So they might be a little more flamboyant than we would in our world. And living in New York near Julliard, I get to see a lot of young women walking around, particularly sort of flamboyant arty types. I wanted the shape of the clothes to also reflect that.

NRAMA: Phil, how's it been collaborating with Marc on this character and this story arc?

PJ: Here's the thing. I have never seen anyone more gracious than Marc Guggenheim. I came in with this character, and the only place to put her in was this story he'd already written, and he had to overhaul the whole thing pretty quickly. That also meant my lead time was very short. The pace has actually been pretty brutal for all of us. But we wanted to really make this a great story.

NRAMA: So Marc, you had the story completely written?

MG: I had this whole arc written before Phil came on board. I could have dug in my heels and said, "No, I'm not re-doing the whole thing." And I probably wouldn't have done it for any old artist. But for Phil, I did it. I was like, "Let's rip up that track. Let's get under the hood and work on it some more." Phil is just an amazing artist. He doesn't just draw the pages. He really comes to everything with an incredible amount of forethought and an incredible sense of character design. He spent a lot of time developing her look and creating a whole backstory. For example, there's a whole explanation for why she looks kind of like Euro-trash. Everything has been done, from both a writing and artistic perspective, on who this character is and why she's doing what she's doing. That's a lot of thought and effort and work that Phil brings to the project.

PJ: Marc's been nothing but gracious and kind and open to suggestions. He wrote a script, and the character was fairly clear in my head, so I would say, well maybe she would do this instead, and he would find a way to write that in. And there were certain actions that I just instinctively had her do, and he's been nothing but good and gracious about it. So I hope everyone's really happy with the result, because he's really worked his ass off to make it as fun and exciting a story as possible.

Twitter activity